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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
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The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Scott Laughton
Concussion Confirmed For Flyers' Laughton
Scott Laughton, C, PHI
12:59 AM
News: Scott Laughton confirmed Thursday that he's been dealing with a concussion, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia reports.
Analysis: Scott Laughton has been cleared to resume skating, but likely needs to pass more tests before he's able to absorb contact. He'll sit for a fifth straight game Thursday against the Jets.

Ryan Suter
Wild's Suter Confirmed To Play Thursday
Ryan Suter, D, MIN
12:50 AM
News: Coach Mike Yeo confirmed Ryan Suter (lower body) would play Thursday against the Flames, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: The injury prevented Ryan Suter from taking part in Wednesday's practice, but he was back on the ice for Thursday's morning skate to verify his availability for the game. Suter has seen his offensive contributions tail off a bit this season, particularly as a goal scorer, but he still paces the NHL with an average of 29:37 TOI per game.

Jhonas Enroth
Sabres' Enroth Wants All Four Road Starts
Jhonas Enroth, G, BUF
12:45 AM
News: Jhonas Enroth wants to start all four of the team's upcoming road games, reports Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News.
Analysis: With Michal Neuvirth (lower body) sidelined, Jhonas Enroth is the undisputed No. 1 goalie with Matt Hackett serving as the backup. Enroth wants to start all the games, including back-to-back Thursday and Friday against Edmonton and Vancouver. Head coach Ted Nolan isn't ready to just hand Enroth the starts, however, saying: "... we want a lot of things. We want some wins, too." Reading between the lines, it basically means that he's happy to give Enroth the starts, but only if he starts winning games. Enroth has not won a game since Dec. 27 and the Sabres are winless in January. It's a good bet Hackett will see some action at some point on the road trip.

Erik Cole
Stars' Cole (Upper Body) Expected To Sit Thursday
Erik Cole, RW, DAL
12:41 AM
News: Erik Cole (upper body) is expected to sit out Thursday's game against the Senators, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Erik Cole indicated that he felt good after participating in Wednesday's practice, but the Stars will exercise a little precaution and keep him out for a second straight game. In addition to the upper-body injury, he has battled a cold recently, which probably has him running at less-than-optimal health at the moment.

Andre Benoit
Sabres Scratch Benoit Against Oilers
Andre Benoit, D, BUF
12:40 AM
News: Andre Benoit will be a healthy scratch Thursday against the Oilers, reports Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News.
Analysis: Despite the team's struggles, the Sabres will keep the same lineup they had against Calgary. Andre Benoit, who has six points in 33 games, will be a healthy scratch alongside Nikita Zadorov. The 31-year-old has served as a depth defenseman for much of the season. He provides some offensive value when he plays, but the team's forwards are struggling, so chances are few and far between. Zadorov will likely dress Friday against Vancouver while Benoit's status is TBD.

Stu Bickel
Wild Reassign Bickel
Stu Bickel, D, MIN
12:34 AM
News: Stu Bickel was reassigned to AHL Iowa on Thursday, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: He'll be replaced by Matt Dumba, who was recalled from Iowa in a corresponding move. Stu Bickel's stint with the parent club lasted just three days, with the blueliner serving as a healthy scratch in the Wild's lone game during that time.

Matt Dumba
Wild Recall Dumba From Minors
Matt Dumba, D, MIN
12:32 AM
News: Mathew Dumba was recalled from AHL Iowa on Thursday, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Mathew Dumba joined the Wild for Thursday's morning practice in Calgary, where the blueliner grew up. Coach Mike Yeo wouldn't say whether or not Dumba would enter the lineup in front of his hometown crowd, but it seems likely that he'd replace Christian Folin if that materializes.

Dwight King
Kings' King Productive Wednesday
Dwight King, LW, LA
12:29 AM
News: Dwight King finished Wednesday's 4-3 win against the Blackhawks with a plus-2 rating and an assist.
Analysis: This was an impressive showing from Dwight King, a player who rarely makes waves in the fantasy realm. Apparent is King's energy on the ice but he shouldn't draw a serious look among fantasy hockey pickups unless he can start to establish any kind of offensive rhythm.

Joffrey Lupul
Leafs' Lupul (Lower Body) Activated From IR
Joffrey Lupul, RW, TOR
12:20 AM
News: Joffrey Lupul (lower body) was activated from injured reserve Thursday.
Analysis: The Leafs were labeling Joffrey Lupul as a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Coyotes, but his activation from IR and the subsequent demotion of Josh Leivo to AHL Toronto suggests the team fully intends to have Lupul available. Injuries have been his undoing throughout his career, but Lupul has been productive in the 26 games he's skated this season, netting nine goals and eight assists.

Marian Gaborik
Kings' Gaborik Collects Assist Wednesday
Marian Gaborik, RW, LA
12:15 AM
News: Marian Gaborik picked up an assist in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Marian Gaborik has helpers in consecutive games. He is best known for putting shots on goal, though he's been relatively idle in that department with only four shots in his last three contests. Gaborik is generally a safe option at the forward spot.

 
 
 
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